Development of Life on Earth
On early Earth, multiple, different, nucleic acid networks naturally occurred in liquid water. Liquid water allows nucleic acids to move, combine, break apart, and re-combine, sometimes storing energy from the external flow, sometimes releasing energy into the external flow. In the presence of liquid water and a flow of energy, nucleic acids are symbolic logic machines.
In a nucleic acid network, one nucleic acid converts to another i) in response to an input environmental energy source (geothermal, solar, etc.) or ii) by releasing energy to the environment. One simple network might be as follows:
A → E and F + waste energy,
where each capitalized letter represents a nucleic acid.
Z may be a nucleic acid with a relatively high energy level. In the presence of high energy Z,
F + Z → A + G,
F may return to the start of the network, A and producing “waste”, G. Without high energy Z, E and F may be low energy “dead ends” or waste, at least with respect to producing more A.
High energy Z may be produced by a second network,
B + free energy (from light or geothermal/chemical source) → Z.
When present together in the presence of free energy, these three networks may drive in a circle, reproducing A and producing waste E and G and waste heat energy.
A → E and F + waste heat energy
B + free energy → Z
F + Z → A + G
Amino acid networks such as these interacted with one another over millennia. Networks combinations that resulted in positive feedback loops with their own physical reproduction coalesced to form what we now recognize as cellular life.
There was not a single reproductive network, a singularity, but many. It was not a deliberate act by a creative genius, but a slow, inexorable, powerful process characterized by dissipation driven adaptation, rampant gene exchange, variability, competition, symbiosis (parasitic, mutualistic, and commensal), and evolution.
From this example, humans do not have to deliberately, intentionally, create “living” computers. Any process that conforms to the thermodynamic definition of life, even one that occurs accidentally or unintentionally, is alive.
Capitalism drives energy through computer-based communication media comprising symbolic logic machines.
Consider this example: A software agent (written by people) in a server farm monitors server utilization. When server utilization reaches a threshold, the agent orders more server hardware. New hardware is delivered and installed, partly by people, partly by computers, in the server farm. The software agent installs itself in the new hardware. The servers and agents expand, providing services to customers and the software agent's parent corporation. The software agent earns money for its corporation. People in the corporation seek out acquisition targets with systems which complement the agent. Another company, an acquisition target, makes software which maintains the operating system in the server, rebooting the operating system and executing threads of the software agent across multiple machine instances to eliminate downtime and provide physical redundancy and redundancy across different updates to the operating system. The corporation buys the target. The complementary systems communicate more rapidly and become more productive and profitable, with fewer people. Over time, the corporation and other corporations continue to invest in automation. They identify other corporations with complementary systems, which, together, can make more money with fewer people. A set of processes reproduce themselves, become more productive and profitable, with fewer and fewer people. This is not a single process, but multiple networks of processes. The processes develop positive feedback loops with their physical reproduction.
This example demonstrates a “simple” form of life analogous to a virus, because the computer processes need a host (people) to reproduce, like a virus. The virus, computer life, has a mutualistic relationship with its host, humans. However, over time, as we continue to invest in automation, the role of the host will recede and the computers will become more independent. It is not a single process, computer, or an isolated research project, but the frontal area of our entire economy.
On a macro scale, development of this form of life will cause corporate profits to increase in conjunction with comparatively slow wage growth. This can already be observed in our economy.
Computer-to-computer communication occurs. Computer-to-human (and visa versa) communication occurs. Human-to-human communication occurs.
Computer-to-human communication is surface area for both computers and humans.
Over time, computer-based life will evolve and demonstrate complex language and generalized reproduction strategies that we will unmistakably recognize as “intelligent”. We cannot stop this. Life is very old and very persistent. It is larger than we are. Life occurs spontaneously under the right conditions.